Choosing the right dog

lots of puppies

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Which dog would suit your lifestyle? 

Deciding to get a pedigree puppy will give you an idea of a dog's characteristics and what he will look like as an adult, but with over 300 breeds to choose from making a decision won't be easy.

Most pedigree breeds were originally bred for a specific function, for example, hunting, guarding, or working livestock. Once you know the purpose of a breed you can get a better idea of its particular canine traits. For example, herding breeds like Border Collies can display obsessive chasing behaviours when excited, so may not be suitable for all owners. Dogs bred to relentlessly pursue scents (like Beagles) or track and flush out birds (like Spaniels), can also be deaf to any owner's command once their instincts kick in and once on a trail some can disappear for hours - or even days!

Terriers

Terriers

Originally bred to hunt animals such as rabbits, rats, and foxes, the terrier is now a well-established family pet. Terriers include the Jack RussellWire Fox, and West Highland White. Terriers are usually low maintenance in terms of coat care, but are high energy, playful dogs. They can be very loyal and quite vocal.
Hounds

Hounds

Hounds were originally bred to hunt larger prey, such as badgers or small deer. Dogs in this group include the BeagleAfghan, and Irish Wolfhound. Hounds are built for stamina and while some require a lot of exercise, sight hounds such as the Greyhound and Whippet only need about 20 minutes twice a day.
Toys

Toys

Toy dogs include the ChihuahuaPug, and Toy Poodle. They can be very playful but are not always happy with small children and may not be ideal if you like long, strenuous walks. They can make excellent companion dogs and often act with more courage than their size suggests!
Gundogs

Gundogs

As the name suggests, gundogs were bred to retrieve or flush out game but are now popular pets. Breeds include the Labrador RetrieverWeimaraner, and Springer Spaniel. They generally make placid, good-natured companions and are more suited towards owners who lead an outdoor life. That said, as long as their exercise requirements are met (dependent on breed), they love being part of the family home.
Pastoral

Pastoral

Herding dogs include the German ShepherdCorgi, and Border Collie. These are intelligent and active dogs, capable of walking many miles, who need regular mental and physical stimulation to keep them happy. They are ideal for anyone interested in training and competing.
Working

Working

These large and giant breeds were bred for a variety of tasks, including guarding, droving, and search and rescue. They include the DobermannRottweiler, and Newfoundland. Because of their size they need plenty of food and space to exercise. They require plenty of mental stimulation and socialisation at an early age. Although many working dogs make excellent family pets, their size and strength might be issues especially with young children in the house.
Utility

Utility

These dogs are types that do not fit into the other regular groups. Personalities, sizes and shapes vary, and so will exercise levels and stimulation requirements. Dogs included in this group include the Dalmatian, AkitaBulldogShar Pei, and Tibetan Terrier.

These groups are based on the UK Kennel Club. Some dog breeds may have different classifications in other countries.

Which dog breed is best for me?

Overall, you must respect the natural instincts of a breed, and take responsibility for a puppy of that breed. You must work hard to keep natural traits under control with appropriate socialisation, training and handling techniques.

Research different breeds to help you decide which kind of dog will suit your family best. Visit pedigree breed websites to see how breeds look as puppies but also how they will look and behave as mature dogs. 

List breeds you like and visit shows to see the dogs for yourself. Most people are happy to talk about their dogs, and they may put you in touch with breeders and owners who you can chat to about all the pros and cons. You could also get in touch with your local training club and ask if you could watch some classes. As well as checking the club out for the days ahead when you are finally a proud owner, you could also meet other owners of the breeds you are interested in. You can also find out more by visiting Discover Dogs held in London each November, and in Birmingham, as part of Crufts, each March.

Dog breed downsides

Although you've probably already checked out points like size, grooming, exercise requirements and upkeep costs, you still need to do some more homework. Make sure you're acquainted with any negative issues that may relate to your chosen breed. Breed rescues are often a good source of information about any downside to a breed - they want to ensure that new owners are fully aware of any potential problems, in order to reduce the likelihood of yet further rehoming becoming necessary. Also make sure you've found out as much as possible about any health problems which can affect the breed, including inherited conditions. Only then, armed with all this information, are you ready to start looking for a reputable breeder. Be thorough - a breeder who seems nice, or a puppy accompanied by registration papers, is no guarantee of a healthy individual.

Kennel Club registered

If you're buying a pedigree puppy, do make sure you get his papers when you collect him, even though you may have no intention of showing him. It doesn't cost much for the breeder to register the pups and not doing so might be considered suspicious. Kennel Club registration should not, however, be considered a guarantee of quality or health, nor does it imply that the breeder is reputable or recommended - it simply shows that the puppy is a pure-bred.

Before you decide on a dog breed!

  • It's easy to fall in love with a particular dog breed's looks, but it is vital not to choose a dog based on their looks alone. There are many Huskies in rescue centres because new owners do not fully understand the demands of such a working dog.
  • Remember, dogs can live up to 15 years (some more!) - are you settled in life enough to take on a puppy?
  • Think about your own lifestyle and what you are looking for in a dog - is it long walks in the country, or a companion to share the sofa with?
  • What type of personality are you? Do you want a dog that will obey your every order, or would you rather have a dog that's a bit more challenging?! 
  • Don't always assume that dogs with higher intelligence are easier to train.

Take a look at our dog breed profiles here